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How to Read Lacan (How to Read) Paperback – January 17, 2007
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About the Author
Simon Critchley is a best-selling author and the Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research. His books include Very Little…Almost Nothing, Infinitely Demanding, The Book of Dead Philosophers, The Faith of the Faithless, Bowie, Memory Theatre and Suicide.
Top Customer Reviews
In other words, how much emphasis do I want to put on making myself comprehensible to others? For Lacan, it seems, the answer was essentially "screw it. I'm going to forge ahead as far as I can, and I'll leave it to other people to figure out what I meant".
Principal among those 'other people' who have taken up the task is Slavoj Zizek. An important thing to note about this book is that Zizek doesn't instruct the reader on how to decipher the writings of Lacan. In fact, they're barely mentioned. Rather, he gives an overview of Lacan's thought, and shows how his ideas can be applied to every day situations. Which is to say, he gives a series of classic (and sometimes recycled) Zizek anecdotes and pop culture analyses.
As another reviewer noted, one definitely gets the sense in reading this book that there's a lot more Slavoj Zizek here than Jacques Lacan. In my opinion, however, that's a good thing.
Zizek's HOW TO READ LACAN is an insightful introduction to realities that escape our conscious awareness, resting deep beneath geologic layers of symbolic pretensions. With a double doctorate in both philosophy and pyschoanalysis, Zizek is especially qualified to introduce us to Lacan's work, arguably the most renowned psychoanalyst since Sigmund Freud.
Not sharing Zizek's expertise in popular culture, this reviewer is not qualified to give HOW TO READ LACAN five stars. And yet, while enabling us to probe more deeply the microscopic dimensions of our daily lives, Zizek's reading of Lacan also empowers us to understand and stand under the macroscopic dimensions of geopolitics on the fragile planet that is our home.
An instance of this reading is Zizek's interpretation of Donald Rumsfeld's March 2003 rendition of 1) known knowns, 2) known unknowns and 3) unknown unknowns. Zizek continutes that what Rumsfeld "forgot to add was the crucial fourth term: the 'unknown knowns,' things we don't know that we know -- which is precisely the Freudian unconscious, the 'knowledge that doesn't know itself,' as Lacan use to say, the core of which is fantasy." These 'unknown knowns,' Zizek continues, are "the disavowed beliefs and suppositions we are not even aware of adhering to ourselves, but which nonetheless determine our acts and feelings."
Still, in line with the whole series, the chapters are short, thus providing explanations, anecdotes, stories and jokes in summarized form, too. Also, if you've ever read a Zizek book you'll know how messy and (oftentimes) incoherent his writing can be; this book at least has the topics more or less clearly spelled out (even then one has to carefully comb most paragraphs with a marker), making it easier to not only comprehend what Zizek is saying but to categorise it all as well.
A bonus about reading this book is that it covers almost all the key Lacanian ideas that Zizek invariably repeats and reapplies in his other books; one could even say that, conceptually, every Zizek book diverges no more than 20-30% from any other one because they're mostly about contemporizing, applying and refreshing Lacan anyway. This book explains the symbolic order, the 'lamella', the site of the Real (one and the smae with the screen which filters out the Real - go figure), hyper non-activity (or extreme passivity masquerading as activity), the subject supposed to know/believe/enjoy, libidinal investments, fantasy as escape from the world, etc. - all of these and many more are given a concise treatment which also serves as a sweet taster of what to expect in Zizek's other phone-book sized publications.
Ultimately, one has to wonder: Is Zizek's Lacanianism dependent on his Marxism or the other way around?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Making Lacan's complex thesis relatively easy to comprehend, an intellectually stimulating read you can't leave down till it's last pagePublished 10 months ago by Nayia
Essentially Zizek provides a lot of examples and pithy observations about Lacan's central concepts without actually giving any sort of a real definition of what these concepts are. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent introduction to Lacan's theory of subjectivity.Published 21 months ago by Christian Magelssen
It seems that Zizek writes down ideas in books faster than he can think through these ideas. Someone wrote "Zizek's HOW TO READ LACAN is an insightful introduction to realities... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Bora Fora
This book is one in a series of, How to Read . . . "great thinkers and writers" produced by the New School of Social Research. Read morePublished on December 19, 2012 by Mitchell Rhodes
Zizek is such a sui generis intellectual that it is inevitable that any "How to read" manual will be tainted by his worldview. Read morePublished on July 30, 2012 by Juan-Pablo Caceres